Transcript

I have an exciting announcement! I am returning to online teaching. If you want one-to-one classes with me through Skype or Zoom, where we will write amazing stories together and discuss hilarious videos, then now is the time.

Go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Classes to find more information and book a class. I’m only going to do a few classes a week for now, so make sure to book early if you’re interested.

So that’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Classes. I look forward to meeting you, future student!

OK, let’s start the episode!

[introduction music]

Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.

I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for intermediate learners. The name of the story is The Flesh and Blood We Share. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Flesh. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Flesh. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.

So at the moment, I am recording a lot of the podcast episodes in advance, I’m recording them several weeks before you will hear them.

This is to build up a buffer. Basically, if I have a week where I’m not doing too well, or I’m tired or whatever, and I can’t do my usual recording, that’s OK, because I will already have several weeks recorded in advance.

Originally, I was going to record this episode last week, at the time I’m talking, which was before I went away to London for the weekend. But actually, I am recording it after I went away to London for the weekend, and today I am celebrating my girlfriend’s birthday with her.

So I know it’s a bit naughty recording an episode on my girlfriend’s birthday, but she’s taking several days off and tomorrow I’m going to cook her lots and lots of food. Oh my goodness! It’s going to be fantastic.

The lasagna I made

I’m going to make home-made vegetarian lasagna. It’s a recipe I grew up with that my mum always made and I loved it because it has loads of cheese and spinach in it. And then I’m going to make my favourite cocktail, but I can’t tell you what cocktail it is because I’m keeping it a secret from my girlfriend and she’s upstairs, so she might hear if I say! I was trying to keep the lasagna a secret as well, but she’s too clever for me.

Chocolate waffles!

Anyway, speaking of birthdays and presents, Christmas is also quickly approaching, and where I live, it’s a very important time of the year and it involves a very stressful thing that is, of course, doing your Christmas shopping.

It’s especially stressful this year in the UK because of Brexit. Because of Brexit, many supply chains have been delayed. That means the chains, the systems, that people use to deliver goods haven’t been as reliable as in the past, so sometimes when you order something, you think it’s going to take a week and it might take two weeks or four weeks to get to you. So it’s really important this year to get all your Christmas shopping done nice and early!

Fortunately, I’m a wonderful person, so I sent all of my relatives a list of all the presents I want so it’s easy for them to buy them in advance. And of course, I’ve asked them what they would like as well.

I’ve also decided to let my creative side out a bit this year. So instead of buying wrapping paper with colours or designs on it like I usually do, I thought I would provide the colours and designs myself. So I bought plain brown paper to use as wrapping paper, and then I’m going to draw cartoons on them.

Can you guess what it is?

I already did this for my girlfriend’s birthday presents. I drew pictures on the wrapping paper that hinted at, that suggested, what might be inside, and I got her to guess what it might be.

I don’t know, I’m not a massive artist, but I like drawing, and usually what I do is I just google a cartoon and then copy that, and actually, I’ve learned some pretty good drawing skills that way, so, you know, it’s a good opportunity to practise.

Of course, that’s my plan. I might get lazy in the future and change my mind. Who knows?

Just a warning: today’s episode contains mentions of sex, bodily functions—specifically going to the toilet when you don’t want to, as well as throwing up—strong swearing and mild gore—that’s blood and violence and things like that. This episode will not be suitable for children.

OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.

Flesh is the parts of our body under our skin. Usually, flesh includes muscle and fat. For example, pork is pig flesh, and beef is cow flesh. The phrase ‘flesh and blood’ is used to emphasise our physical form, basically our body, instead of the spirit or our soul.

A dragon

A dragon is a mythical creature that is found in most cultures around the world. Dragons are big monsters with horns and claws that can breathe fire and eat people. Dragons like to collect treasure and hide it in their lair, and knights come to try and kill the dragon, although most of them just get eaten. Dragons have scales, like snakes, and they can fly.

Slay, and the past participle is ‘slain’, means to kill, but specifically to kill a very big creature or a monster. So you might slay a dragon, a giant boar and so on. You also slay vampires, although I love vampires, so please don’t slay them! Someone whose job it is to slay monsters is a slayer, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hey Buffy, hands off my boyfriend!

A prostitute is a sex worker, someone who sells sex for their job. Prostitute is not a polite word to use, however it is the most commonly-used word to refer to sex workers. Prostitution is illegal in many countries. In the UK, prostitution is technically legal. However, it is usually illegal to offer sex services in public or live with a sex worker, and therefore many prostitutes still get arrested.

Medieval plate armour

Armour is a set of hard clothes, made of iron, steel or leather. Armour is there to protect you in battle. In the Middle Ages, knights and warriors wore very complicated metal armour and it took a long time to put it on and take it off. This armour was divided into plates, pieces, that went together to form a suit of armour. Nowadays, usually only the police and soldiers wear armour, and the armour is much lighter.

The bladder is the part of the body that keeps urine, or pee. So when you drink water or other liquids, your bladder fills up. When your bladder is full, you will need to go to the toilet and pee.

An alley, or alleyway, is a small passage between buildings. In cities, there are often alleyways between houses. Alleys are often used to get into a house through the back, or as a place to store bins. In some places, illegal activities such as drug use take place in alleys.

A sorcerer is a man who uses magic. Sorcerers are like wizards or magicians, but sorcerers are usually evil. The first Harry Potter book in English is called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but in America they changed the name to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, because they thought children might not know what a philosopher was.

A beast is a large, ugly, dangerous animal. For example, the Disney film Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful girl who falls in love with a horrible monster, the Beast.

When you disarm someone, you take away their weapons so they can’t fight. In Harry Potter, the magic spell Expelliarmus is used to throw someone’s wand away and disarm them. In real life, you usually have to disarm someone with your hands. If you disarm someone emotionally, you make them vulnerable and unable to hide their feelings.

A claw is a long, sharp nail that animals have. So instead of nails, bears, tigers, cats and so on have claws. Claws can really hurt you!

Dignity is the ability to have honour and respect, especially when you have good style and are very polite. Usually, dignity is something that is in danger, that you can lose. For example, if you trip up and fall down in front of everyone in your school, landing in your lunch and getting food all over your clothes, you will probably not have dignity again for a very long time. If you do something with lots of dignity, in a formal and elegant way, you do it in a dignified way.

Tame means to train an animal so that it can live with humans and do what humans say. For example, many people have to tame their dog so that it doesn’t eat the furniture. In the circus, they used to tame lions to jump through rings and tame elephants to dance on balls, but they don’t do this anymore.

Your spit is the liquid that your mouth naturally produces. Spit helps us eat food. However, sometimes our body doesn’t work how it’s supposed to, and we choke on our own spit, [choking noise]. Of course, drinking some water can help stop you from actually choking on your own spit!

Penance is a punishment you give yourself because you did something wrong. Penance is especially important within Christianity. For example, you might confess your sins to a priest and then commit a penance of many prayers. Some people might go on a pilgrimage as a penance. Or others might do a more literal penance, and hurt themselves for what they did.

Brissa Gutiérrez, you are my hero! And my newest patron over at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. Thanks, Brissa. If you want to join the coolest club on earth, where you can get extra episodes and hear me talk all about my exciting trips to London and elsewhere, head on over to Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish and throw me a few dollars. Or even hand me a few dollars. Throwing is rude, don’t you know?

OK, so listen and enjoy!

The Flesh and Blood We Share

The cries of market sellers filled the air, mixing with the scent of freshly-baked bread, which disappeared into the mouths of happy festival-goers. Small flags were attached to string, which had been hung between the houses, and they had the symbols of the various villages of the valley on them. The flags danced in the breeze, and the people danced in the streets. Joy was returning to Neff Pit, the market town which had suffered so greatly.

Except for Hale, the wandering dragon slayer who was staying in town. Hale did not jump about happily like the children, meeting cousins who had been unable to see them for months, nor did he take advantage of the fine goods from faraway cities, which had for so long been unavailable to the townspeople. He did not take part in the great contests of strength, although on a better day he would have probably won, and he did not get lost in the silk and feathers of a travelling prostitute, as many others in his position might do.

No, Hale wandered miserably through the town, keeping everyone away from him with his smell of beer and sad expression. He was checking the town ‘just to make sure they were safe’, all while drinking from his bottle.

A laughing child ran into Hale’s leg, barely stopping as it bounced off the adult man. Hale fell against a wall and swore, intending to tell off the child, but it was already gone, running after the other little monsters.

Hale panted, stood up straight and ran a hand through his dark blond hair. His armour weighed like a horse on him. He hadn’t realised just how much muscle he’d lost until he put on the armour and saw himself in the mirror.

And it was only now that he was realising how full his bladder was.

He had decided to wear full plate armour to the festival, even though he was the only one in town who thought that the danger still remained. When his assistant, Sam, had tried to convince him to wear leather armour that morning, so that he wouldn’t have to help him get in and out of the armour, Hale had hit him on the head and sworn at him. But within an hour of wandering around the festival, Sam’s jealous looks became too much, and Hale told him he was off duty. So Sam left, probably to go and find a prostitute.

Now Hale stood in an alleyway of Neff Pit, desperate to empty his bladder, wearing heavy metal armour.

He dropped his bottle of beer and tried to pull off the armour, but the battle was already lost. His drunk body jumped ahead of him, and hot liquid ran down his leg, collecting in his boots.

‘Fuuuuuuuck,’ Hale groaned, resting his head against the wall in front of him.

It felt good, even if he would be regretting it soon. But was he really going to hang around the festival for hours, hunting for a dragon that no longer existed? Once he felt a bit better, he’d go back to the hotel, take off his clothes and demand a bath. If they were all too busy with the festival to heat him some water, he’d go and drag his stupid assistant away from whatever prostitute he’d bought and make him do it.

Hale turned around and rested his back against the wall, suddenly noticing all kinds of aches and pains that the beer had temporarily hidden. There was the familiar pain in his neck from spending weeks lain in bed. There was the fresh ache in his back and arms from yesterday’s sword practice session. And there was the stabbing pain in his heart, the constant reminder of what he’d lost, a pain that had stayed the same since the day he realised Bulan wasn’t coming back.

At that thought, Hale went deeper into the alley, needing a break from the colours and life of the festival. And then he saw a familiar old window, and realised which alley he was in.

It was the place he and Bulan had first kissed.

Hale fell to his knees and threw up all his beer onto the dirt. The edges of his armour plates cut into him, and he felt like a skeleton dancing inside it, like a sorcerer had used magic on him or something. He threw up twice, then three times, and finally stopped. A bit of sick slid down his chin and neck, leaving a stain on his shirt.

This was the only reminder he had of their love, this dirty little alleyway, along with a handful of other places in Neff Pit that Hale had been carefully avoiding. And now he’d thrown up all over it, ruining the memory of Bulan. He was less than the man he had been before meeting Bulan, and nowhere near the man that Bulan had made him.

Hale had just enough energy to fall to the side, away from his sick, before he passed out.


‘Sir Yupin, Sir Yupin!’

Sam’s young voice was like a fly in Hale’s ear, and he did his best to ignore it. Couldn’t the boy see that he was trying to sleep?

But the cries came nearer and nearer, and Hale noted that the expected sounds of the festival weren’t there either—rather, he heard distant shouts of fear.

He must be dreaming, he decided, because those sounds, along with his assistant’s cries, could only mean one thing: a dragon attack.

But the dragon was dead, and so was Bulan.

‘Sir Yupin, there you are!’

Sam pulled on Hale’s arm, forcing him awake.

‘Get off!’ he croaked, pushing him away.

Sam ignored him and pulled again, and surprisingly, he actually succeeded in lifting him to a sitting position. Gods, had he gotten so weak?

Hale blinked and looked around him. That awful smell was coming from the drying pile of his sick, but more importantly, the festival scene beyond the alley had turned into chaos, with townspeople running around, pointing and shouting at the sky.

‘What’s going on?’ said Hale.

‘Sir, the dragon, it’s, it’s back!’

Hale squinted and then raised his head to the sky.

And there he saw it. The great beast that had haunted Neff Pit for so long, that Bulan had left to slay, flew around the skies above the town.

The monster looked different. Its green scales were darker, and there was something about its skin, it almost looked metal… With horror, Hale realised that they looked like the plates of Bulan’s armour, as if the beast had pulled them from the man’s body and joined them to its own.

‘I don’t understand!’ blubbered Sam, as Hale got to his feet. ‘We were all so sure it had died. Why would it wait so many months before showing itself again? Bulan died for nothing!’

‘That’s Sir Wekeran to you, boy,’ said Hale coldly.

‘S-sorry, sir!’ he yelped. ‘What’s the plan?’

Hale took deep breaths, observing the dragon and letting his mind wake up. The beast was acting like it always had, flying around the town slowly, high up enough that you might think it was a bird if you weren’t used to searching the skies for flying death. It didn’t seem to have noticed Hale yet, which was good, but he had to distract it before it attacked the townspeople.

If Bulan had been unable to stop it, Hale had no chance. At least he could give the people of the valley a chance to escape.

‘Help the people get out of town. There’s no point in seeking shelter when that thing can breathe fire.’

‘Sir? Don’t you want some water? Or a different weapon?’

Hale shook his head. As he was, he was not well equipped to fight a dragon. He only had a short sword, no helmet, and he was covered in dried sweat, the contents of his bladder, and his own sick. His throat was dry, and his head pounded like a festival drum.

But he wouldn’t delay it more than necessary. In a way, he felt that this was how it had to be. Bulan had always disarmed him so easily, taking him down to nothing with just a glance or a sweetly-said word. If the dragon had indeed taken the form of his lover to face him, then Hale would fight how he wanted to.

Hale waited for Sam to calm down and head off, before slowly making his way to the central square of the town. As he walked, townspeople ran past him in fear, only a few stopping to give him words of encouragement. But he could hear the disappointment in all their voices. The great Sir Wekeran had failed, so what could his weaker companion do?

He passed burnt-out houses, victims of the dragon’s previous attacks, as well as the houses that were being rebuilt. Neff Pit had suffered so much from the beast, but Hale found himself unable to care. All that he thought about was the loss of Bulan. If he could have him back for even an hour, he would gladly let this place burn to the ground. Did he even deserve to be called ‘dragon slayer’?

Once Hale had reached the square, a place with lots of space for a fight, he stared up into the sky, pulled out his sword and whistled.

‘What you seek is here, you beast!’ he bellowed.

The dragon flew around a few times more, before gradually descending. That was something Hale had never understood. The monster always awakened such fear and panic in the people, yet it moved elegantly, as if it found art in its destruction.

But it was nothing more than a mindless beast.

The dragon landed at the other side of the square, ready to fight.

From this distance, the dragon slayer could properly see the changes in the dragon’s skin. Just as he’d thought, it had somehow joined the plates of Bulan’s armour with its body, and one of its claws even shone like a sharp steel blade.

Rage boiled in Hale’s stomach. It was more than just a beast, to decorate itself so cruelly. It had waited months, months where Hale had lived like a dead man, patiently waiting for news of Bulan’s return, or at least confirmation of his death. So many times he had considered going to the dragon’s cave himself, but he was always too much of a coward.

And the whole time, the monster had waited, putting on a costume of cruelty so that it could cause Hale more pain. Why? What could possibly make a mindless animal do such a thing?

Hale charged, a battle cry coming out of his chest, raising his sword at the creature.

‘Diiiiie!’

The dragon lifted a claw, hitting the blade with ease and sending it flying across the square.

Hale stopped, panting, already disarmed. Bulan’s voice rang inside his ears from training: You might as well say what you’re about to do, you’re so obvious.

A second passed, and Hale waited for the creature to cut him open, but it did nothing, simply staring at him through its frustrating yellow eyes.

Eyes that seemed to shine a bit like Bulan’s brown eyes.

‘Wraaagh!’

Another shout came out of Hale, and he pushed his gauntlet at the dragon’s chest, trying to cut through an exposed bit of skin. But the beast easily moved to the side, pushing Hale away with a wing. Hale moved again, attempting to cut through the wing, but the beast shot its long neck forward, hitting him on the head and sending him falling backwards.

Hale slammed into the ground, his breath lost, every muscle in his body crying out in pain. He had not had enough training, not enough food and too much beer. And still, he forced himself to his feet, having at least enough dignity to not be killed lying down.

How had the beast taken Bulan, he wondered. His lover would have never died in such an embarrassing way.

Once again, when Hale finally got to his feet, the creature made no attempt to attack him. It was waiting for him to make the first move, just so it could make fun of him.

Hale stood there, staring it in the eyes. Then he glanced to the side, and dashed towards his sword.

But the dragon was quicker than him, and it jumped over to the blade, picking it up with a claw and throwing it into the burnt-out remains of a house it had destroyed in its last attack.

Hale took advantage of this to run at it. He jumped, arms spread wide. The dragon sliced at his chest, but his armour protected him, and he landed on the beast’s shoulder, holding on with his gauntlets. The dragon shook him from side to side, but he didn’t let go. He scratched, kicked and even bit at the monster, letting out all his rage and frustration. He didn’t do much more than annoy the thing, since its skin was so thick, and it had the added protection of Bulan’s armour plates.

The beast eventually stopped shaking and grabbed him with its claws. It pulled him off it and held him in the air. Hale kicked at it, but all he could do was hit the dragon’s wrist like a child fighting its father. The claws pressed against his ribs, robbing him of breath. White spots appeared in his vision, and he felt bruises forming on his body, from where he’d been thrown against his own armour.

‘Do it,’ he wheezed. ‘End it all, you coward.’

The dragon’s yellow eyes simply continued to stare at him, still reflecting that slight Bulanness. Or was Hale simply so desperate that he sought his lover wherever he could?

But the dragon did not end it. It stared at him for several long minutes, and then finally it dropped him. Hale fell to his knees. He watched as the dragon stepped back, stretching itself to its full height.

Then it did something unexpected. It grabbed the chest plate of Bulan’s armour, which was now joined to its own chest, and pulled on it. A horrible creaking noise came, like a rusty metal gate, and the plate came off the skin, showing something so awful it almost made Hale throw up again.

There, pressed into the surface of the dragon’s skin, was a beating human heart. And just above it was a ring that Hale knew all too well.

If we ever separate, I will give you this ring to remember me by.

But he hadn’t, he hadn’t given him the ring. He’d left on that day without saying a word, while Hale still lay in a peaceful sleep, and he hadn’t come back.

And now this beast had taken it from him.

‘You fucking monster,’ Hale growled.

He tried to get up, to fight, but all he managed was to slowly get to his feet. His right arm wasn’t moving the way it should have, and he realised that he had broken his shoulder, and probably a few ribs, too.

The dragon showed its monstrous chest for a few moments more, and then it moved its head towards Hale. Its face stood mere inches away from him, showing the fullness of those eyes, those terrible eyes.

And then the beast started to speak. The words came out like whispers, like the sound of water that had been disturbed, the sound of grass moving in the wind.

You are right, said the beast. I am a coward. There was only one way to kill the dragon, truly kill it, and I chose the other option.

Hale realised, with the cold pain of a sword through his stomach, that it was Bulan speaking to him.

‘Bulan, no, what are you saying? This can’t be you, it—’

I had a choice. I discovered the true nature of the dragon and didn’t tell you. I kept the knowledge secret, because I knew it would destroy you.

‘Can it really be you?’ Hale croaked. His cheeks were wet with tears. He carefully raised his left hand, holding it to the dragon’s cheek.

Yes, those were Bulan’s eyes, even if the colour was different. How could he have ever doubted it? They had disarmed him, just as the dragon had disarmed his body.

To kill the dragon, one must either die with it, or become it.

Hale’s hand froze. He stared deeply into the dragon’s eyes, searching for a lie within them, trying to convince himself that it was tricking him.

But the truth of the words hurt, more than any lie could. The dragon had come from the cold lands of the north, the townspeople had said, the place where magic lived in the earth.

It was no ordinary monster.

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ said Hale, his hand shaking. The pain from his injuries was starting to affect him, and he felt like he might collapse at any moment.

Because you would have wanted to die instead of me. You were young, and you still had so much life ahead of you. I had to kill it myself.

Hale shook his head, still unable to believe it. ‘But you… didn’t. You became one with the dragon.’

He realised that this was the first time Bulan had shown any sign of true weakness in front of him, and he used it against him.

‘You left me alone, miserable, and then you betrayed our code of honour as dragon slayers. Why, Bulan?!’

The dragon lowered its head and let out a grassy sigh. Its breath moved through the plates of Hale’s armour, warming his knees.

I thought I was ready to die. But in that moment, with the beast before me, I doubted my choice. I didn’t want to leave you in this world, and I thought that I might tame the beast, find some way to keep living with dignity. But each passing day is nothing but pain. I feel only hunger, the desire to kill, and worst of all, the desire to… take you. To eat you.

Hale’s hand fell to his side, and he slowly walked back.

‘You…’ His voice was hardly more than a whisper. ‘If that’s so, then why did you wait so long? Do you enjoy my suffering?’

The dragon shook its head violently.

No! I hid in my cave, tried to get rid of my desires with prayer. But we both know that that doesn’t work. I thought you must have left, that you would have moved on, and then I found out that you were still in Neff Pit… I lost control.

Hale let out a chuckle. He lost control, and yet he hadn’t even burned down a single house. Hale had spent the last three months completely out of control. Even in this strange state Bulan had more dignity than him.

‘So do it then. Eat me. End this nonsense.’

Hale held his arms wide—the left one at least—and closed his eyes, ready for it all to end. He couldn’t bear this pain any longer.

But Bulan had never let him give up like that. Several times, when Hale had said he was going to leave, that he wanted to give up in the face of that horrible beast, Bulan had talked him back, calmed him down.

So Hale was forced to open his eyes and face him again.

It was so good to see you one last time, said the dragon sadly. Even if it is under these circumstances. I did not mean for you to get so injured, but… You will recover.

‘And what will you do? Go off and burn through all the villages in the valley?’

No, Hale. You will kill me. I am not selfish enough to demand that you take your own life as well, but you at least will be able to tame the beast better than I.

Hale stared, unable to believe it. Bulan was… giving up? Disappointment sat sourly on his tongue, mixing with the taste of his own blood.

But this wasn’t giving up, he realised. Bulan was giving him a choice. A chance to finally show who he was.

With the last of his strength, Hale walked forward, pulled off one of the gauntlets and placed his hand on the dragon’s chest, next to Bulan’s beating heart. It felt good. Warm. Alive.

‘If you couldn’t do it, there’s no way I can do it,’ Hale whispered. ‘And without you, I have nothing to live for.’

And there, just like that, Bulan had disarmed him again.

The dragon let out a choking noise, and a single tear rolled down its cheek, disappearing into Hale’s hair.

You must take out my heart, and drink the poison you find inside.

The dragon let Hale stroke him for just a moment longer, but not too much, in case they got lost in their passions. Then it fell back, lying on the ground like a trapped animal.

Hale didn’t have the strength to go and get his sword, but it didn’t matter. For once, he felt strong enough to do anything, even beat Bulan in a fight. All he needed were his fingernails and his will.

Somehow, the poison tasted sweet.


Choking on his own spit was perhaps not the most dignified way for Prator to awaken from a fifty-year sleep, but he hardly had a choice in the matter. He’d spent so long living in a dragon’s body, his own consciousness mixed with others’, that he’d forgotten what it felt like to exist as a human.

‘Master!’

The voice of his assistant, familiar but now older, bounced around the stone room, and within moments the boy—now a man—was at his side, helping him sit up.

‘It’s finally over,’ said Prator, wiping tears out of his eyes. ‘Bring me a glass of water—no, wine. And a big bowl of rice.’ He hesitated. ‘Are the people of our kingdom still eating rice?’

It had been so long since he’d been here, in the ‘cold lands of the north’, as the southerners liked to call it. He had been away from his own country for so long, and he was frightened by the idea of not recognising the place he’d grown up.

But Xikin, his assistant’s, innocent smile and childish laughter reminded him that he was home, even if his bedroom had been removed of its decorations and his assistant was now much older than him. It was strange, to feel Xikin hug and kiss him, the formalness now gone between them. It was strange to be held with such strength by his former student.

‘Oh master, master! I cannot believe you are back.’

Prator slowly raised his arms, as if he thought they might be injured, and held Xikin back. Emotions ran through him as weak memories of his last death—his one true death—came back to him.

After calming himself, Xikin eventually went and brought food and drink as Prator requested, and they sat down in Prator’s bed to eat together. It felt like they were two naughty servant boys, stealing food from the kitchens in the middle of the night, and Prator’s heart practically burst with joy.

Once Xikin had caught him up on the state of the kingdom, their conversation turned to more serious matters.

‘I am afraid I have failed you, master. I could not learn the identity of the sorcerer who did this to you. I searched for decades, but I always ran out of information, and the others in the school demanded that I give up on you and focus on other work.’

Prator clapped Xikin on the shoulder.

‘Do not apologise, my boy. Forgive me, I should not refer to you as such. It is so strange to have my own age unchanged, although I have lived so many lifetimes.’

Xikin blushed, and placed a hand over Prator’s.

‘N-no, I don’t mind it, master. Although I suppose I should stop calling you that, as well.’

Prator smiled warmly. ‘I can’t say it bothers me, either.’

They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, their hands resting on each other, before Prator suddenly moved his hand away to drink some wine.

‘But anyway,’ he said, ‘I do not care about finding the sorcerer. I have suffered other men’s tragedies enough to understand what is important in life.’

‘Master?’ said Xikin, his eyes widening. He still had a childlike quality to him, even after all these years. It disarmed Prator, but drew him to Xikin as well. He had, in every way, become the man that Prator had seen in him.

Prator carefully lowered his glass and placed his hand on Xikin’s knee.

‘When two souls are connected, truly connected, that bond lives beyond time and place, and perhaps even death. I felt those bonds inside me, like part of my own flesh, during my time as that beast. During my penance.’

‘It was not a penance, master!’ Xikin cried. ‘That nasty sorcerer, whoever it was, simply sought to—’

‘Easy, my boy,’ said Prator, squeezing his leg. ‘I have had time to consider this all. Remember that not all within the school will be so happy to see me awake and moving again. It is possible that the man who created my suffering lives within these very walls. But it does not matter, because I do not seek revenge.’

‘I don’t understand,’ said Xikin, shaking his head. ‘Then what now?’

Prator understood Xikin’s pain. He had been working for years in the hope of getting revenge for his master, but revenge was not the answer.

‘I am only here because a very brave man gave up his own life to end this cycle of suffering. And I felt his pain as if it were my own, even though our cultures and histories are so different. I learned a valuable lesson: the only thing that matters is here.’

Xikin blinked, and then looked around the room. Prator burst out laughing, and Xikin blushed.

‘Here? What do you mean?’

Prator shook his head and tutted, just like he used to during their lessons.

Here, you silly boy,’ he said, putting his hand on Xikin’s chest. The beating of the student’s heart connected them. ‘The flesh and blood we share.’

A smile came over Xikin’s lips, and he leant forward to kiss Prator.

‘Like that?’ he whispered.

Prator smiled. ‘You always were an excellent student.’

THE END

Thanks for listening, lovelies. Did you enjoy it? I know it’s a bit longer than my usual stories, so well done if you listened to the end. If you really enjoyed it and are thinking, ‘Wow, Ariel deserves a coffee for that, or some other drink with a similar price,’ then, surprise, you can give me just that! Go over to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and click Buy me a coffee! to send me $3. [slurping noise] Delicious!

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